West Indies are the worst Test match team I have seen in more than 50 years of watching, playing and commentating on cricket ...
– Geoff Boycott on August 20, 2017.
Almost all cricketing nations in the world have had their rough patches. The teams with better infrastructure and funds like Australia, England, India and New Zealand recovered within a couple of months. Some others like Pakistan even without any of these blessings somehow came around by sheer hard work and timely guidance.
On the other hand, the West Indies which once ruled the cricketing world for more than a decade, never recovered fully. A land that produced legends like Vivian Richards, a captain who had never lost a test series, is today ranked eight in the ICC test rankings. While the much feted Brian Lara still holds the highest test score -- 400 not out against England in 2004, the West Indies team is currently facing a rout in England prompting Geoff Boycott to observe that it’s the worst test team he had seen for the past 50 years or so.
If Sri Lanka’s rough spell made headlines, one may say that it was because our team had been doing fairly well for more than a decade or so. While consecutive flops have turned away Sri Lankan spectators from television sets it has also been a blessing in disguise. The debacle has helped expose the flaws in the cricket management. As long as the Sanga-Mahela-Dilshan trio delivered and ensured a fairly sanguine phase, the management dismissed the allegations levelled against Sri Lanka Cricket. The slump has exposed what was swept under the carpet and the perpetrators are not in a position to deny the crimes.
Today the whole country knows that political interference, favouritism and prejudice by the management and the flawed selection procedure, which allowed many outside manipulations, had made a mess of Sri Lanka cricket scene.
Even after last Sunday’s ODI, interim Coach Nic Pothas hinted at there being interference in the selection of players for the Dambulla match. “Too many cooks” in the selections, according to the South African, spoilt Sri Lanka’s chances at the first ODI against India. It looks like the coaches are yet to learn their lessons.
If we want to avoid low spells like the present one it is mandatory that the authorities pay more attention to school cricket and domestic cricket systems.
The gradual destruction of the filtering system of players from school level to the domestic cricket system, which is maintained with much care and discipline in other cricketing nations, is no more there in Sri Lanka.
Gone were the days that players of the calibre of Arjuna Ranatunga, Marvan Attapattu, Roshan Mahanama, Sanath Jayasuriya and Muttiah Muralitharan were feted and either picked or groomed for the national team at school cricket level. Many classy school cricketers who emerge at school level opt for other careers today because of the lack of support.
On the other hand even those who join clubs fail to get adequate exposure to impress the selectors because of the drastic drop in the number of domestic matches played here.
A trend was also created to give national slots to provincial cricketers as payback for their clubs for voting for certain individuals at Sri Lanka Cricket elections. While the national team always had players from outstations, by creating a system like school cut off marks for provinces at university entrance, certain individuals made it possible for provincial players to get a berth in the national team over better players from Colombo.
There’s no denying the fact that the present team has quite a few talented players. A fine batsman like Dinesh Chandimal was ruined early in his career by giving him the responsibilities of a captain. A captain needs certain characteristics, a certain personality that a gentleman batsman like Chandimal was not endowed with at that point. Today of course there is very little choice with Lasith Malinga too on his way out.
The heavy pressure on the management following the slump is likely to open the eyes of those who have been meddling in cricketing affairs unnecessarily. The Nic Pothas comment drives home the point that some individuals are refusing to give up their habits. Despite these setbacks chances are that our team will be back on track after a few months. How long the present spell will continue depends on how soon the management learns its lessons.